Creative Coalitions: A Handbook for Change

Key Takeaways

  1. Avoid the lowest common denominator by building opt-in coalitions: What you’re seeking is a critical mass of partners – a committed group of sufficient talents to make a difference and who share a vision.
  2. Serve the cause, not the coalition, and not an institutional interest. Your role is to maximise the impact of collective action. Staying behind the scenes means you can be the honest broker for building coalitions of maximum impact.
  3. It is the voice of the coalition that matters: you are the strategic convenor, building coalitions with the expertise and credibility to make a difference. If you seek public attention as the convenor, you undermine the trust that your partners put in you; they will question whether you are organising for impact or for ego.
  4. Create bespoke coalitions: different decision-makers listen to different constituencies. Different arguments can be better made by different voices. The world isn’t one-size-fits-all, so nor should your coalitions be.
  5. Listen and lead: bring together enough talent to create a robust strategy. Demonstrate humility to hear others’ wisdom, audacity to rally coalitions to higher goals, and determination to propose the way forward that will achieve greatest impact.
  6. Your network is your currency: look after it, nurture it, and try to make it grow.
  7. Encourage a democracy of ideas; insist on a dictatorship of delivery: you have a vital role to see the best ideas generated and then brought to life.
  8. Cultivate a culture hungry for impact: your impact won’t just come about from structures, but also from who you hire, how you inspire, how the team learns, and what you reward.

Organising for impact in the way described here has brought real change for people in war zones around the world, as the examples within this Handbook have illustrated. From this experience, we are confident that this Handbook can strengthen impact around your work with people suffering so many other injustices, too. That is why we share this with you all.

This model of influencing supercharges the impact and efficiency you and your partners can have. Using this model you can help keep the network’s focus on "execution" of the change you’re all seeking. This is more effective than more commonly-used models that try to get everyone to agree a common position, which too-often dilutes the power of the coalition and takes longer than expected. As a strategic convenor that doesn’t seek public recognition, you can build a powerful and trusted network of both local and global actors, crowdsource the most respected analysis and thought leadership, and drive forward the most innovative, impactful and creative solutions.

Jacqueline Muna Musiitwa Founder and Managing Partner, Hoja Law Group, and member of Crisis Action’s Board

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